Rita Ora Proves She's a Rock Star in Her Own Right
Make room for RocNation's newest
The sounds of the Notorious B.I.G.'s debut tune "Party and Bulls***" emanate from the speakers in New York's Highline Ballroom, inciting concertgoers to nod rhythmically to the mellow anthem. But the reminiscing is soon interrupted by another rising star, RocNation's very own Rita Ora who, decked out like a diva in a black fur coat and sunglasses, emerges onto the stage and dives into the first of her three No. 1 U.K. singles, "How We Do," a pop-rock revelry that samples the chorus of the late rapper's track.
From the way the crowd cranes its neck to get a view of an obscured balcony and repeatedly chants "Hova" prior to Ora's hitting the stage, there's a chance her boss, Jay-Z, is in the building peering at his protegé. On this recent Monday night in New York, Ora doesn't disappoint.
Ridding herself of the fur to reveal a loose-fitting Acne pajama set, she launches into "Facemelt," the aggressive, bass-heavy, Diplo-produced intro from her debut album "Ora" that boasts a beat like a racecar is headed your way. She stops to apologize to the audience for her previously canceled show (due to Hurricane Sandy) but still manages to keep up the momentum with "Roc The Life," the electric-guitar-and-drum-laden ode to her newfound fame, with a chronically catchy chorus.
Then the set turns noticeably more intimate when Ora begins to perform a song most special to her, the reggae-tinged "Shine Ya Light," the video for which she returned home to the streets of Kosovo to shoot. She then strips to a black midriff-baring tank top, sits at the edge of the stage amid dozens of outstretched hands, and croons "Unfair." It's a song she's never done live before, one written by Ester Dean that admittedly took her "six months to record," one that finds her going back and forth about whether or not to give up on a failing relationship. The emotional moment is only further solidified when the slow tribal drums of the breakup ballad "Hello, Hi, Goodbye" begin. But she ends that farewell with a cheeky "Motherf*****!" and all is good again.
Fans are next treated to an unforeseen surprise when Ora asks, "Would you allow me to get 'hood?" and does her own rousing rendition of rapper Kendrick Lamar's hit "Swimming Pools (Drank)." Staying inspired by another lyricist, she launches into "Love & War," her synthy duet with her labelmate J.Cole (though he doesn't make a cameo on stage).
Though Ora decides to speed up the Sia-penned, house anthem "Radioactive," fans know the inevitable is imminent; the concert is coming to a close. And, after battling her drummer with her own set of sticks during "Uneasy," and pulling a fan on stage to whom to belt a personalized version of "Happy Birthday," Ora gives sincere thanks to her supporters: "This means more to me than it does to you." She then headbangs into her No. 1 hit, the sultry, dubstep-laced "R.I.P.," proving she's a rock star in the making that cannot be categorized.